An Alaska-based soldier accused of leaving her newborn baby to die in an Eagle River park pleaded not guilty to a charge of second-degree murder Tuesday in an Anchorage courtroom.
Spc. Ashley Nicole Ard, 24, carried the fetus to term and gave birth late Oct. 14 without seeking immediate medical help, police said. She then allegedly wrapped the baby in a towel and abandoned it about 1 a.m. Oct. 15 at Turner Park, a wide-open expanse of grass with playground equipment near Eagle River's bowling alley and municipal library.
A dog-walker found the dead baby about eight hours later, and police linked her to the case when they learned medics had been called to treat her for injuries related to childbirth, a detective said.
A grand jury indicted Ard on Friday, and she appeared in court Tuesday wearing an orange jumpsuit, unlike the usual yellow clothes worn by Anchorage inmates. Orange is typically worn by inmates held in the jail's segregation unit.
As she shuffled into the courtroom shackled to three other women, Ard glanced at her mother, sitting in the courtroom gallery. Through her new lawyer, Rex Butler, Ard pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors did not seek higher bail, set at $250,000, payable by bond, at an earlier hearing in jail.
Butler's associate, Tank Jones, said Ard's mother had no comment as she left the courtroom. Butler stopped to answer questions from reporters. There had been five video cameras and two still cameras in court.
"Ashley has strong family support in this," Butler said. "She's a good person."
Butler said Ard might have been placed in segregation at the jail for her own protection. There may have been threats made against her, he said.
"The public should withhold judgment until they see all of the facts," Butler said. "It's not unusual for cases to start out one way and end up another."
"We want to see whether those charges are supported by the facts, not just tidbits of information," he said.
Ard has no prior criminal history and has never been involved in abusing drugs or alcohol, Butler said.
"She's hanging in there," he said. "This is obviously a road she's never been down."
Reach Casey Grove at firstname.lastname@example.org or 257-4343.
By CASEY GROVE